Every organization can measure success. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a non-profit, a government agency, a corporation, small business, or an educational institution… you need to have some ways to set the course and measure your progress. That is, if you would like to succeed.
If you are willing to fail (you must be a government agency or educational institution where money comes “magically” from the tax gods) goals, mission, and vision are pointless as your default measurement of success is merely “Did I keep my job another year?” While those in businesses without defined goals have default, meaningless measurement tools like “Did we make more money than last year?” From a business perspective, that’s a stupid measurement tool as you can kill next year by maximizing profits this year to reach the “make more money than last year” measurement tool. Just ask Enron. Organization driven by meaningless measurements like profits will always fail!
So, let’s define some terms. Maybe this will help your organization.
Mission Statement: This is the big, grandiose “nebula” statement. For a school district a mission statement would be something like “Every student will receive an excellent education.” The funny thing about mission statements is that they often seem so general that they would fit for any business or school or church or non-profit. And that’s OK. Too many organizations get caught up on this… the mission of an organization is a dream… dream a little when writing yours.
Vision statement: This is how your organization is going to move towards the mission. At my church, our mission statement is “to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” Pretty generic, eh? That could be the mission statement for 90% of churches in the world. But our vision statement defines the “how to” of the mission. To accomplish our church mission we create foyer, living room, and kitchen environments for our age-based ministries. For a school district a vision statement would be like “By implementing a cohesive educational model we will succeed at all grade levels.” See, the mission everyone can agree on… its the vision for “how to” that people argue about.
Goals: Goals are the stepping stones for putting the vision to work towards the mission. So, for our pretend school district a goal would be “Each building will train staff to use a common educational strategy by 1/1/2009.” That is measurable. That is saying that 100% of classrooms in the district will start using the new model by the deadline. On 1/2/2009 a report is generated and they will know if they reached their goal or not. Only 90% did it? Heads roll. 100% did it, we all celebrate together.
Where measurable goal setting really helps is three places. First, it sets an agenda for leaders. Maybe they need to schedule a training session? Maybe they need to determine some sub-goals to that? Second, it creates a deadline. Let’s face the fact that without clear deadlines things don’t get done in an organization. We learned this in college didn’t we? A solid deadline makes us get it done. Everyone has an all-nighter story, and what is behind that story? A deadline! Third, a good goal is an evaluation tool. The best part is that since it is measurable it is plain to see who is succeeding and who is failing.
Why is this important? It helps your workgroups focus. Having clearly defined goals, vision, and a mission statement changes the discussion. Instead of every idea being equal… when an idea is presented that is good but doesn’t directly help you accomplish a goal within the vision (even if it is complimentary to your mission) you can boldly say no. Likewise, when the mission, vision, and goals are clearly understood by everyone in an organization… it creates two of the most powerful things in any organization: synergy and soft-innovation. Both are more valuable than money!